The Chickenpox Vaccine

Written by Amy Boulanger | Published on November 17, 2014
Medically Reviewed by Kenneth R. Hirsch, MD on November 17, 2014

Chickenpox Vaccination

The varicella vaccine protects against chickenpox. Before the vaccine was developed, chickenpox was a common childhood disease.

Chickenpox symptoms include fever and an itchy rash. In rare cases, more serious infections can occur.

There is still a slight chance of developing chickenpox after vaccination. However, these cases of chickenpox are usually very mild.

Getting Vaccinated

If your child hasn’t had chickenpox, they should get two doses of the vaccine. The first is given between 12 and 15 months of age. The second is given between 4 and 6 years old.

Anyone over 13 who has not had chickenpox should also be vaccinated. They should receive two doses of the vaccine. These should be given at least 28 days apart.

There is also a vaccine that combines the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine with varicella. It’s called the MMRV. This vaccine causes more side effects than separate vaccinations. However, it requires fewer shots. It can be used in children under 12.

Who Should Not Get Vaccinated?

There are several groups of people who should not get the chickenpox vaccine. These include anyone who:

  • has had a severe allergic reaction to a previous dose of the vaccine
  • is allergic to gelatin or the antibiotic neomycin
  • is currently moderately to severely ill
  • is currently pregnant

People with compromised immune systems should discuss the risks of vaccination with their doctor. You may also need to wait for vaccination after a blood transfusion.

Potential Side Effects

Serious reactions caused by the chickenpox vaccine are very rare. However, if you have any unusual symptoms after the vaccine, talk to a doctor.

Mild to moderate symptoms are more common. These include:

  • soreness or swelling where the shot was given
  • fever
  • mild rash
  • seizure caused by fever (very rare)
  • pneumonia (very rare)
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